Toulouse and Kyiv are twinned cities. It would be useless to point out how different the twins’ destinies are at the moment. Pretty much everyone is confused heartbroken and appalled by the invasion of the Ukraine, and for the people of Toulouse it is no different.
Modern day town twinning came about as a way to build bridges after the second world war. The idea was to repair damaged relationships between European countries. Towns that suffered during the wars were paired to encourage people from these areas to connect. Town twinning, at its heart, is a good and important thing.
The people of Coventry became the pioneers of the ‘modern’ twinning movement when they made contact with the people of Stalingrad during the Second World War. Both cities suffered horrific bombardments. Coventry understood the pain of Stalingrad, which suffered more than a million casualties during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43. Over eight hundred women in Coventry sent an embroidered tablecloth along with the words “Little help is better than big sympathy” and sent it, along with money, each donated six pence, to the people of Stalingrad.The twinning between Coventry and Stalingrad was formalised in 1944. After the end of the war, links amongst other cities were established to foster friendship and understanding among former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation.
Toulouse and Kyiv became twinned cities in 1975 and until now this constituted mainly business, educational and cultural ties.
At the moment, the focus is on helping Kyiv along with the rest of the Ukraine as much as we are able to. Along with many people from many countries, we have been organising aid and sending supplies. Twinning cities and towns is not limited to Europe either. Vancouver is twinned with Odessa; the two port cities are also living profoundly different destinies.
We don’t fight with the Ukrainian people because they are not part of the EU. Or is it because we fear a nuclear war? So we watch feeling helpless as they are attacked by their hostile neighbour to the east.
As a young girl, I often went to visit my great aunt in Vienna. Fresh out of high school, idealistic and somewhat clueless I asked her, though not with a tone anywhere near as accusatory as Greta Thunberg “how could you have let this happen”?
Of Jewish descent herself, it isn’t obvious what she ‘could have done’ anyway but her response was that they didn’t really know what was going on all that time.
That’s the really scary thing. We do know what is going on now, (we watch it on tv) and we are still ‘letting it happen’. That a war of this magnitude is taking place in Europe in 2022 is a hard pill to swallow.
As individuals we do what we can. We march for Ukraine, we show our support for the people being attacked, which keeps people in the know, and possibly gives support to the Ukrainians who live here, and we also send aid. When it comes to OPWs (other peoples wars) we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.
The conductor Tugan Sokhiev, who was the conductor of the National Orchestra of Toulouse for fifteen years as well as the Bolshoi Theatre in his native Russia, left both posts very soon after the war began. He is against all conflict and after all a musician, not a politician. For those of us living outside Russia it is easier to make a stand, to take sides. The people in Russia who have stood up against the war have done so at great risk to themselves.
Here in Toulouse I have the freedom to say what I think. I have the freedom to support the Ukraine, in my own way. I can walk around this beautiful city free from bombs. We aren’t running out of food. We have water and electricity and we are not frightened. The very least I can do is to stand with Ukraine. I can let the people know that we have not forgotten them.
Thanks for reading…………….à bientôt Christina